In baseball and softball, you’ll find a term that represents one of the greatest qualities found in humans. I’m talking about the “sacrifice.” The sacrifice bunt, or the sacrifice fly, is used to improve the position of another player on the team by letting yourself be put out. What a concept! What’s good for the team is put ahead of what’s good for the individual. Here’s a real-life example.
Arthur Ashe was an American professional tennis player. He won three Grand Slam titles, ranking him among the best tennis players in the world. Arthur Ashe was also the first African American ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.
What most people don’t know is that none of that would have ever happened had it not been for the sacrifice of his older brother Johnnie Ashe who was serving in the Vietnam War. The US military had a policy that prevented more than one son from the same family from serving at the same time. After Johnnie Ashe finished his first tour in Vietnam, his younger brother Arthur was suddenly in danger of being sent to Vietnam.
Without telling his brother, Johnnie Ashe volunteered to serve a second tour of Vietnam so that Arthur could stay home and continue his tennis career. Only their father was told the truth.
To sacrifice something of value for another person’s good is the highest level of serving. It requires taking our eyes off our self and being more concerned about someone else. This is not a common practice in today’s culture. We’re more likely to see behaviors – or even someone’s tattoo or T-shirt -- that proclaims, “It’s all about me” or “The next BIG thing.”
How can we teach our children the value of serving something, or someone, as more important than themselves? We can start by checking our own assumptions when it comes to having a scarcity mindset, or an abundance mindset in our daily activities. If our actions suggest that the takers in the world succeed, and the givers get left behind, we can’t blame our children for being self-centered. When a child’s fear is, “Will I get mine?” -- it’s not likely they will embrace putting themselves second in any situation.
As a parent, where are you willing to make a sacrifice to meet the needs of other people outside your family? What noble cause are you willing to put ahead of your immediate needs today? In addition to our actions, which our children constantly watch, our conversations about sacrificing time, money, effort, and attention are teaching moments. We have the opportunity to shape the mindset of our children when we point out examples of sacrifice in the community, when we discuss why we are generous towards social causes, and where they can purposefully put the needs of others first on a team or at school. It’s important for kids to learn that you don’t need to be a baseball player to make a sacrifice.